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Healthcare Delays Impact Student Veterans
Most veterans who are students at Utah State University must drive to medical facilities in Ogden or to Wahlen Medical Center in Salt Lake City for appointments.

Recently released statistics show that the number of long-delayed medical appointments at Utah Veterans Affairs facilities has not changed. Since last summer, around 6,500 appointments at George E. Wahlen Medical Center in Salt Lake City alone failed to meet VA time goals. Veterans who are also students may find even more obstacles to receiving care.

Tony Flores, Program Coordinator at Utah State University’s Veterans Resource Office, said that college-related demands can often inhibit veterans from making appointments.

“Sometimes, to get a disability claim completed or some continued treatment from when they got out of the military, sometimes those appointments are made six months to a year in advance,” Flores said. “So, the hard part for our students is that they don’t know what classes they’re going to be in in six months or a year. They’re caught between a rock and a hard place. I get some veterans that just get frustrated and kind of give up.”

Flores said that he has seen a steady increase in veterans at Utah State over the past five years. He said that the number of veterans going to college in Utah and across the nation will continue to grow.

“In addition to that, this is the first year we’ve really been able to track incoming students that either designate themselves as veterans or utilize their veteran’s benefits,” he said. “With that, I’ve got a list, it was around 350 students. Those [are] students that could be entering Utah State anytime between this summer and next spring. We are seeing growth and we anticipate another million students nationally over the next five years that’ll be coming out of the military and pursuing education.”

In a press release, the VA announced that, nationally, 97 percent of medical appointments last year were completed within 30 days.